Tony Scott: Tribute to a Furious Filmmaker
When I was young Tony Scott was one of the first filmmakers I actually was aware of from the movie business. This was mainly due to the 1986 film Top Gun starring Tom Cruise which became a huge smash when it was released. It was also one of the main examples of the “high concept” form of cinema created by Producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. These were movies made for the young, hip MTV generation and Tony’s own modern, cutting edge style fit in with it perfectly. I usually describe his trademark visual aesthetic as “rock n’ roll video noir”. It was a unique look that combined color with shadow and created a distinct atmosphere so whenever you saw it you knew you were watching a Tony Scott film.
This edition of our Furious Filmmaker series looks at some of our favorite works from his career.
Top Gun (1986) told the story of a young hotshot Navy fighter pilot, Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) who along with his best friend LTJG. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) are accepted to the elite flight school known as Top Gun. When Mav and Goose arrive it immediately becomes a an all out testosterone fueled competition between him and the other pilots. His main rival is Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), a blonde haired condescending snob that doesnt like Maverick’s rebellious style. While at the school, Maverick also falls in love with one of his instructors, astrophysicist Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) who he charms with his quick wit and badass ‘tude. Top Gun is a true pop culture artifact of the 1980s, a kind of post-modern, high flying Rebel without a Cause. It remains an entertaining All-American action adventure and is one of Scott’s early classics. WATCH TRAILER
Revenge (1990) After retiring from the U.S. Navy, an aviator Michael “Jay” Cochran (Kevin Costner) decides to live life on his own terms and take it easy. He is invited by an old friend “Tibby” Mendez (Anthony Quinn) to his hacienda in Mexico to relax. It turns out Tibby is a feared crime boss who is constantly surrounded by bodyguards. When Jay arrives at Tibby’s home he meets his young beautiful wife Miryea (Madeleine Stowe) and the two soon begin an affair. When Tibby discovers this, he turns Miryea into a prostitute and leaves Jay for dead. Saved by a passerby, Jay recuperates then goes after Tibby and tries to find Miryea. Tony Scott mixed a torrid love story with classic revenge tropes and created a stunning, visceral adventure. This was one of the earliest films I saw from him. It is often overlooked by critics but I consider it a solid crime-thriller and also a film Kevin Costner fans might like. WATCH A CLIP
The Last Boy Scout (1991) paired Die Hard star Bruce Willis and In Living Color’s Damon Wayans as his unlikely partner. Willis plays Joe Hallenbeck an ex- Secret Service agent who is now a lowly private eye who drinks too much. Joe finds out his wife is having an affair with a colleague (Bruce McGill) who is later mysteriously killed by a car bomb. Before his death Joe was given a new job to act as a bodyguard for a stripper named Corey (Halle Berry). At the club where she works Joe runs into her ex-boyfriend, pro football star Jimmy Dix (Wayans) who was kicked out of the sport for gambling and is like Joe, on the skids. Jimmy and Joe get in a small altercation after which, Corey is killed by some hitmen outside while on her way home. Meanwhile, Jimmy saves Joe’s life and the two form an uneasy partnership and decide to work together to try to find out who was behind Corey’s murder. This leads them into a deadly situation with a group of underworld figures. The two must then use their intuition and skills to try to stay alive. Joe’s young smartass daughter (Danielle Harris) is implicated in the turmoil but turns out to be quite a smart little kid. The script by Shane Black is another of his trademark “bickering buddies” storylines much like Lethal Weapon and his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Filled with hard hitting action, pulsing adrenaline and dark comedy this Scott film runs like a finely tuned Porsche engine. WATCH TRAILER
True Romance (1993) Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is a lower class kid from Detroit who works at a comic book store called “Heroes For Sale”. Since he doesn’t get out much, his only real once a year celebration is his birthday where he goes to the movies. While at a Sonny Chiba triple feature he meets a sexy young blonde gal named Alabama (Patricia Arquette) who he immediately takes a liking to. Clarence later finds out she’s actually a call girl hired by his boss, but he’s fallen in love with her after their one night stand. He then proposes and she accepts but Clarence is haunted by the thought of her pimp who still has her belongings at his pad. Clarence decides to confront Drexl (Gary Oldman) a grimy lowlife who sports dreads and a dead eye. When Clarence arrives at Drexl’s pimp shop he gets in a brutal fight and kills him then grabs Alabama’s suitcase before leaving. When Clarence gets back to his place he discovers the suitcase isn’t filled with clothes, but alot of cocaine. This sets off an adventure that has the newlyweds driving cross country to Los Angeles where Clarence hooks up with his best friend, aspiring actor Dick Ritchie (Michael Rapaport) whose acting classmate Elliot (Bronson Pinchot) acts as a go between to sell the drugs to a big movie producer he works for. Meanwhile the cokes original owner, a Detroit mobster, has a contract out on Clarence and sends his mook thugs to get the drugs back. Filled with QT’s trademark pop culture dialogue, humor and blazing action, this initial team up of Tarantino’s writing mixed with Tony Scott’s visual style has made it a beloved cult classic. NOTE: It was QT’s first screenplay to be sold to a Hollywood studio which led to him making Reservoir Dogs. WATCH TRAILER
Crimson Tide (1995) is part of the submarine thriller subgenre which includes such classics as Das Boot and U-571 among others. What made this film especially great was the two stars Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington who are as good as it gets when it comes to the craft of acting. Both of them play military officers with very strong, opposing convictions and theories on life. This tense potboiler has them butting heads when a nuclear attack becomes imminent and they have an onboard conflict in which they must decide whether or not to engage the Russians into war. The two take sides which causes their crew to take part in a mini underwater battle of wills. There’s an excellent supporting cast featuring people like Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolofini and George Dsundza. The dialogue crackles with fury thanks to uncredited screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, who injected several of his trademark pop culture references into the story and gave it the mad as hell edge it needed. WATCH TRAILER
The Fan (1996) took Scott into a different place with the psychological thriller genre. Robert DeNiro plays a knife salesman named Gil who is also a lifelong obsessive baseball fan. After getting fired from his job, and due to complications from his recent divorce, Gil becomes despondant and begins to lose his grip. He turns his inner desperation and rage towards his one favorite pasttime: baseball and the sole player he’s devoted to: Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes). Rayburn, like Gil, has also been down on his luck so Gil decides to try to help, but he does this by stalking him. Soon Gil becomes Rayburn’s self appointed protector/manager and takes out anyone who could come between him and Bobby winning games (even other players). DeNiro, who had played many deranged characters before this was perfect for the part of Gil. Wesley Snipes, a veteran of sports themed films like Major League and White Men Can’t Jump was equally convincing in his role as the embattled sports star. WATCH TRAILER
Unstoppable (2010) starred regular Scott protege Denzel Washington and Chris Pine as fellow freight train workers who must try to stop a runaway. This kind adrenaline charged tale (which was loosely based on a real event) was perfect for Scott to work his action-thriller magic as it was all about the super quick pacing and ultra tense atmosphere he was best at conveying on the big screen. I was really impressed by it and it remains one of my favorites out of all his work. WATCH TRAILER
Tony Scott is one of the icons of modern action cinema and he influenced so many filmmakers that came after him. He brought incredibly unique, exhillerating visions to the silver screen over the past 30 years.
In closing we just want to express our heartfelt condolensces to his family and friends on his passing. We’ve still got his films to remember him by and that’s a great thing.
Tony Scott was a great director, a genuine friend and it is unfathomable to think that he is now gone…He had a tremendous passion for life and for the art of film-making and was able to share this passion with all of us through his cinematic brilliance”. – Denzel Washington
“He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable” – Tom Cruise
“Tony was one of the good guys. He was a man’s man who lived life as hard and as full as anyone.” – Kevin Costner
‘The Last Boy Scout’, ‘True Romance’, ‘Crimson Tide’, ‘Man On Fire’ and yes, ‘Domino’ too. Tony Scott was a rambunctious cinematic spirit.”- Edgar Wright
“Tony Scott was incredibly encouraging to me at an early stage of my career. He was generous, gregarious & immensely talented. Sadness.” – Mark Romanek
“Working with Tony Scott was like a glorious road trip to Vegas on desert back roads, a wild man behind the wheel, grinning. I felt safe. Tony Scott was the ultimate mentor – once he understood you… he released the glorious hounds of inner city research, dangerous frontiers… True Romance changed my life…His greatest film….” – Richard Kelly